Resurrecting diversity of technological choice in the Automotive Industry: Depart from the Dominant Design?

Type de publication:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2017)


car sharing, dominant design, electric vehicles, new product development, Production System, Ride Sharing, Technological Strategy




As of 2017, we can find the various types of technologies applied into the vehicle sold on market. Especially, the layout and architecture of powertrains, the materials used for body construction, and the power sources are the most obvious aspects of the diversity of technological solutions.

Theoretically, the author applies the concept of “Product-Process Life Cycle” from Abernathy (1978) into this research. After the introduction of Ford Model T in the beginning of 20th century, the Model T was regarded as “Dominant Design” and the core design concept of “car” has been stable for around one century. From this point of view, the growing technological diversity of cars implies that the car industry is departing from the “Dominant Design.”


Key Research Question

The key research question of this research is “What are the sources of the diversity of technological choice for Vehicles?” In this research, the author aims to grasp the source of diversity not only from technological point of view, but also from customer/market point of view.

It is obvious that the technological evolution of power sources such as batteries and fuel cell enabled the market introduction of Battery EVs and fuel cell EVs. Nevertheless, the change of usage patterns triggered by the diffusion of smartphones and the evolution of ICTs have also affected to the core design concept of cars at the same time.


Early Findings

According to the evolution of ICTs, the usage patterns of cars has been rapidly diversified. The biggest new concept would be “sharing.” Both of car sharing services and ride sharing services have the enormous impacts against the usage patterns. Additionally, one OEM recently launched the subscription model of cars in the U. S. These solutions came with the smartphone as the platform, which can match the needs and opportunities of mobility.

These schemes would trigger the “separation of ownership and usage,” which means that the users of cars can use various types of cars without owning them.


Once the concept of the “separation of ownership and usage” become popular among users, the preference of potent customer of cars would be significantly changed. Customers would choose the best car and service in each occasion to maximize the fulfillment of their needs of mobility. This implies the shift of customer preference from versatile cars to optimized cars with fractional usage.

This shift would significantly impact against the state of “Dominant Design” since its concept preconditioned the stable ownership model, which can hardly changeover vehicles along with situations. Therefore, the broadly acceptable design concept will be elected to the dominant design.

Nevertheless, once the customer needs become diversified and their preference shift into more optimized product, OEMs should deal with the diversified needs with diversified product. This trend may force OEMs to change their business model, technological strategy, production system and so on. For example, economy of scale would not make sense so much as past.

Finally, the author concludes that both the technological evolution of car and the evolutions of ICTs have potentials to force changing the core design concept of cars and changing business models of OEMs at the same time. We may be now witnessing the depart from the Dominant Design of cars after one century.

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